Extinct huia bird feather breaks record price at NZ auction becomes most expensive in the world

Extinct huia bird feather breaks record price at NZ auction becomes most expensive in the world

But not just anyone could purchase the rare piece of Māori history.

A single huia bird feather has sold at auction, breaking records by a whopping 450%.

Webb’s Auction House reckoned the rare feather would pull in around $2-3k, but all expectations were blown as the item sold at the hammer for a staggering $46,521.50.

It is now reportedly the world’s most expensive feather, and too right.

The birds' feathers were extremely significant to Māori, often worn as headpieces by high-ranking chiefs, plus their families and were used to gift or trade.

The huia bird, from the wattlebird family, was said to have last been seen in 1907. 

SOURCE: Webb's Auction House

When it came to the auction, it wasn't just any ol' person who could make a bid for the feather. Nope, all potential buyers had to provide a permit from the Ministry for Culture & Heritage before being considered eligible to bid.

According to Webb's: "The feather is a Y-registered object, meaning Manatū Taonga Ministry of Culture & Heritage, Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira hold a permanent record of the item recognising its importance."

The record-breaking feather, now owned by a private unnamed collector, was sold at Webb’s Material Culture live auction, where other items brought in some impressive prices. 

A Large Hei Tiki went for $10,157.50, a Prestigious and Chiefly Taiaha (staff) for $9,560, and a Pā Kahawai Fishing Hook for $1,553.50.

On the huia feather, Leah Morris, Head of Decorative Arts at Webb’s said: “We are very pleased the rare item of natural history has achieved such huge bidder interest, highlighting the fragility of our ecosystem and the importance of looking after its fauna.” 

The previous record for a huia feather was set in 2010, also by Webb’s and went for  $8,400. 

Pulling in these sorts of prices in 2024, it’s clear that the huia bird's legacy continues to hold a special place in Aotearoa.